Stand up comedian and host of "The Tonight Show"
Jay Leno was a born comedian, always the class clown.
While studying speech therapy at Emerson College in Boston, he earned his stand-up stripes on the nightclub circuit and in talent shows. After graduating from Emerson in 1973, Leno headed to Los Angeles to pursue his passion for stand-up on a full-time basis.
He started out as an opening act for Johnny Mathis and Tom Jones, and got a job as a writer for the series Good Times. Leno made his Tonight Show debut in 1977 as a comedian, while appearing on The Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. Show.
He was cast in 1978's American Hot Wax; and had numerous appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, which followed The Tonight Show on NBC. He frequently served as guest host for Johnny Carson, and also hosted his own television comedy special, Jay Leno and the American Dream.
In 1987, Leno became the exclusive Tonight Show guest host, warming up the chair for himself. When Johnny Carson -- the king of late night -- announced his surprise retirement, Leno was named Carson's successor, and the next to follow in the line of Tonight Show talents such as Steve Allen and Jack Paar. Leno was honored with the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy, Variety or Music series in 1995, and Outstanding Technical Direction in 1996.
Leno's comedy routine includes "Headlines," featuring actual funny newspaper headlines, which Leno compiled into a series of books and desk calendars by the same name, as well as "Police Blotter," which features funny newspaper clippings of police stories. The proceeds of book and calendar sales go to various charities. Leno also wrote an autobiography, entitled Leading With My Chin.
Leno and his chin can be seen on the peacock network at least until 2005. In the meantime, Leno continues to take his act around the United States, from Las Vegas to college campuses, and also travels overseas to entertain the troops.
Leno and his wife, Mavis Nicholson (a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2002), reside in Los Angeles, where Leno spends his spare time tending to his antique car and motorcycle collection.
Master of Ceremony